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BY THE REV. JOSEPH SUTCLIFFE.
people devoted to pleasure, and unacquainted with the duties they owe to God; we see a metropolis, in which it is estimated that not more than one adult out of fifteen attends any place of divine worship. Ought not ministers so circumstanced, to take the alarm, and to weep
SAURIN'S SERMONS, one hundred and sixty-eight in number, are comprised in twelve volumes. I I have read them with edification and delight. Actuated by these sentiments, I doubted whether I could better employ my leisure moments than in preparing an additional volume, to those already before the Eng-for the desolations of the sanctuary? if impiety and effeminacy were, confessedly, the causes of the desolation of Greece and Rome, ought we not to be peculiarly alarmed for our country? and while our brave warriors are defending it abroad, endeavour to heal at home the evils which corrode the vitals? Ought we not to adopt a mode of preaching like that which first subdued the enemies of the cross? If our former mode of preaching has failed of effect; if the usual arguments from Scripture have no weight; ought we not to modify those arguments according to existing circumstances, that, fighting the sinner on the ground of reason, and maintaining the rights of God at the bar of conscience, we may vanquish the infidelity of his heart? The wound must be opened before he will welcome the balm of Calvary, and be enraptured with the glory and fulness of the gospel. Hence, I am fully of opinion that we ought to go back to the purest models of preaching; that addressing the sinner in the striking language of his own heart, we may see our country reformed, and believers adorned with virtue and grace.
The three Discourses on the Delay of Conversion, are a masterly performance, and in general, a model of pulpit eloquence. They not less distinguished by variety and strength of argument, than by pathos and unction: and they rise in excellence as the reader proceeds. Hence, I fully concur in opinion with Dupont, and the succeeding editors, who have given the first place to these Discourses: my sole surprise is, that they were not translated before. Whether they were reserved to ornament a future volume, or whether the ad dresses to the unregenerate were deemed too severe and strong, I am unable to determine. By a cloud of arguments derived from reason, from revelation, and from experience, our author certainly displays the full effusions of his heart, and in language unfettered by the fear The regular applications in the first and second Sermons, are executed in such a style of superior merit, that I lament the deficiency of language to convey his sentiments with adequate effect.
On the subject of warm and animated ad- But, though our author be an eminent modresses to wicked and unregenerate men, if I del in addressing the unregenerate, he is by raight be heard by those who fill the sanctuary, no means explicit and full on the doctrines of I would venture to say, that the general cha- the Spirit: his talents were consequently deracter of English sermons is by far too mild fective in building up believers, and edifying and calm. On reading the late Dr Enfield's the church It is true, he is orthodox and clear, English Preacher, and finding on this gentle- as far as he goes: and he fully admits the man's tablet of honour, names which constitute Scripture language on the doctrine of assuthe glory of our national church, I seem un- rance; but he restricts the grace to some highwilling to believe my senses, and ready to de-ly favoured souls, and seems to have no idea of ny, that Tillotson, Atterbury, Butler, Chan- its being the general privilege of the children dler, Coneybeare, Seed, Sherlock, Water- of God. Hence this doctrine which especially land, and others, could have been so relaxed abounds in the New Testament, occupies only and unguarded as to have preached so many a diminutive place in his vast course of Sersermons equally acceptable to the orthodox mons. On this subject, indeed, he frankly conand the Socinian reader. Those mild and affa- fesses his fears of enthusiasm; and, to do him ble recommendations of virtue and religion; justice, it seems the only thing he feared in the those gentle dissuasives from immorality and pulpit. vice, have been found, for a whole century, unproductive of effect. Hence, all judicious men must admit the propriety of meeting the awful vices of the present age with remedies more efficient and strong.
Our increase of population, our vast extent of commerce, and the consequent influx of wealth and luxury, have, to an alarming degree, biassed the national character towards dissipation, irreligion, and vice. We see a crowd of families rapidly advanced to afflu ence, and dashing away in the circles of gay and giddy life; we see profane theatres, assembly-rooms, and watering-places, crowded with
But, however prepossessing and laudable this caution may appear in the discussion of mysterious truths, it by no means associates the ideas we have of the divine compassion, and the apprehensions which awakened persons entertain on account of their sins. Conscious of guilt on the one hand, and assured on the other that the wages of sin is death, mere evangelical arguments are inadequate to allay their fears, and assuage their griefs. Nothing will do but a sense of pardon, sufficiently clear and strong to counteract their sense of guilt. Nothing but the love of God shed abroad in the heart, can disperse their grief and fear, Rom.
v. 5; Luke xxiv. 32; 1 John iv. 18. Nothing but the Spirit of adoption can remove the spirit of bondage, by a direct assurance that we are the children God; Rom. viii. 15, 16. Every awakened sinner needs, as much as the inspired prophet, the peace which passeth ali understanding, to compose his conscience; the Spirit of holiness to regenerate his heart; the Spirit of grace and supplication, to assist him in prayer; the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and the joy unspeakable and full of glory, to adopt the language of praise and thanksgiving, which seem to have been the general sentiments of the regenerate in acts of devotion. That is the most satisfactory ground of assurance, when we hope to enjoy the inheritance, because we have the earnest; and hope to dwell with God, because he already dwells with us, adorning our piety with the correspondent fruits of righteousness. Revelation and reason here perfectly accord: Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find. If ye being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him. Hence, SAURIN, on this subject, was by far too contracted in restricting this grace to a few highly favoured souls. Farther still, it is not enough for a minister to beat and overpower his audience with arguments; it is not enough that many of his hearers weep under the word, and form good resolutions for the future; they must be encouraged to expect a blessing before they depart from the house of God. How is it that the good impressions, made on our hearers, so generally die away; that their devotion is but as the morning cloud? After making just deductions for the weakness and inconstancy of men; after allowing for the defects which business and company produce on the mind, the grand cause is, the not exhorting them to look for an instantaneous deliverance by faith. In many parts of the Scriptures, and especially in the Psalms, the supplicants came to the throne of grace in the greatest trouble and distress, and With regard to the peculiar opinions of the they went away rejoicing. Now, these Psalms religious denominations, this venerable minisI take to be exact celebrations of what God did ter discovered superior knowledge, and admiby providence and grace for his worshippers. rable moderation. Commissioned to preach Hence we should exhort all penitents to expect the gospel to every creature, he magnifies the the like deliverance, God being ready to shine love of God to man; and charges the sinner on all hearts the moment repentance has pre- with being the sole cause of his own destrucpared them for the reception of his grace. tion (Sermon, Hosea xiii. 9). Though he asSome may here object that many well-dis-serts the perseverance of the saints, it is, neverposed Christians, whose piety has been adorn-theless, with such restrictions as tend to avoid ed with benevolence, have never, on the sub- disgusting persons of opposite sentiments. ject of assurance, been able to express them- Against Antinomianism, so dangerous to salvaselves in the high and heavenly language of in- tion, he is tremendously severe: and it were spired men; and that they have doubted, whe to be wished that the supporters of these opither the knowledge of salvation by the remission nions would profit by his arguments. It is of sins (Luke i. 77), were attainable in this much safer to direct our efforts, that our hearlife. Perhaps, on inquiry, those well-disposed ers may resemble the God they worship, than Christians, whose sincerity I revere, have sat trust to a mere code of religious opinions, disunder a ministry, which scarcely went so far sonant to a multitude of Scriptures. on the doctrines of the spirit as SAURIN Perhaps they have sought salvation, partly by their works, instead of seeking it solely by faith in the merits, or righteousness, of Jesus Christ. Perhaps they have joined approaches to the altars of God, with the amusements of
May Heaven bless to the reader this additional mite to the store of public knowledge, and make it advantageous to his best interests, and eternal joy!
Halifax, Nov. 21, 1805.
the age; and always been kept in arrears in their reckonings with Heaven. Perhaps their religious connexions have hindered, rather than furthered, their religious attainments. If these sincere Christians were properly assisted by experienced people; if some Aquila and Priscilla were to expound unto them the way of God more perfectly (Acts xviii 26), they would soon emerge out of darkness into marvellous light; they could not long survey the history of the Redeemer's passion, without loving him again: they could not review his victories without encouragement; they could not contemplate the effusions of his grace, without a participation of his comfort. They would soon receive
"What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy, The soul's calm sunshine, and the heartfelt joy." Another defect of our author (if my opinion be correct), is, that he sometimes aims at oratorical strokes, and indulges in argument and language not readily comprehended by the better instructed among the poor. This should caution others. True eloquence is the voice of nature, so rich in thought, so abundant in motives, and happy in expression, as to supersede redundant and meretricious ornament. It unfolds the treasures of knowledge, displays the amiableness of virtue, and unveils the deformity of vice, with the utmost simplicity and ease. It captivates the mind, and sways the passions of an audience in addresses apparently destitute of study or art art, indeed, can never attain it; it is the soul of a preacher speaking to the heart of his hearers. However, SAURIN ought to have an indulgence which scarcely any other can claim. He addressed at the Hague an audience of two thousand persons, composed of courtiers, of magistrates, of merchants, and strangers, who were driven by persecution from every part of France. Hence it became him to speak with dignity appropriate to his situation. And if, in point of pure eloquence he was a single shade below Massillon, he has far exceeded him as a divine.
ON THE DELAY OF CONVERSION.
ISAIAH lv. 6.
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.
I appeal to your consciences, consists of I know not what, confused ideas we have formed of the divine mercy, fluctuating purposes of conversion on the brink of futurity, and chimerical confidence of success whenever we shall enter on the work.
THAT is a singular oath, recorded in the tenth chapter of the Revelation. St. John saw an angel; an angel clothed with a cloud; a rainbow encircled his head, his countenance was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. He stood on the earth and the sea. He sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, that there should be time no longer.' By this oath, if we may credit some critics, the angel announces to the Jews, that their measure was full, that their days of visitation were expired, and that God was about to complete, by abandoning them to the licentious armies of the emperor Adrian, the vengeance he had already begun by Titus and Vespasian.
On the delay of conversion, we shall make a series of reflections, derived from three sources.
From man;-from the Scriptures ;--and from experience. We shall have recourse in order, to religion, history, and experience, to make us sensible of the dangerous consequences of deferring the work. In the first place, we shall endeavour to prove from our own constitution, that it is difficult, not to say impossible, We will not dispute this particular notion, to be converted after having wasted life in but shall consider the oath in a more extended vice. We shall secondly demonstrate that review. This angel stands upon the earth and velation perfectly accords with nature on this the sea he speaks to all the inhabitants of head; and that whatever the Bible has taught the world: he lifts his voice to you, my breth-concerning the efficacy of grace, the supernaren, and teaches one of the most terrific, but tural aids of the Spirit, and the extent of mer. most important truths of religion and morali-cy, favour in no respect the delay of converty, that the mercy of God, so infinitely diver- sion.-Thirdly, we shall endeavour to confirm sified, has, notwithstanding, its restrictions and the doctrines of reason and revelation, by daibounds. It is infinite, for it embraces all man-ly observations on those who defer the change. kind. It makes no distinction between theThese reflections would undoubtedly produce Jew and the Greek, the Barbarian and the a better effect delivered in one discourse than Scythian.' It pardons insults the most noto- | divided, and I would wish to dismiss the hearrious, crimes the most provoking; and extri- er convinced, persuaded, and overpowered cating the sinner from the abyss of misery, with the mass of argument; but we must proopens to him the way to supreme felicity. portion the discourse to the attention of the auBut it is limited. When the sinner becomes dience, and to our own weakness. We design obstinate, when he long resists, when he de- three discourses on this subject, and shall confers conversion, God shuts up the bowels of fine ourselves to-day to the first head. his compassion, and rejects the prayer of those who have hardened themselves against his calls.
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.' On this subject, to be discussed in order, shall our voice resound for the present hour; if Providence permit us to ascend this pulpit once more, it shall be resumed: if we ascend it the third time, we will still cry, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.' If a Christian minister ought to be heard with attention, if deference ought to be paid to his doctrine, may this command change the face of this church! May the scales fall from our eyes! and may the spiritually blind recover their sight!
Our mind, prevented by passion and prejudice, requires divine assistance in its ordinary reflections; but now attacking the sinner in his chief fort and last retreat, I do need thy invincible power, O my God, and I expect every aid from thy support.
I. Our own constitution shall supply us to
From this awful principle, Isaiah deduces the doctrine which constitutes the subject of our text. 'Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.' Dispensing with minuteness of method, we shall not stop to define the terms, Seek ye the Lord, and call ye upon him.' Whatever mistakes we may be liable to make on this head, and however disposed we may be to confound the appearance of conversion with conversion itself, errors of this kind, it must be acknowledged, are not the most, destructive. We propose to-day to probe the wound, to penetrate to the source of our depravity, to dissipate, if possible, the illusive charm which destroys so many of the Christian world, and of which Satan too successfully avails himself for their seduction. This delusion, this charm,
day with arguments on the delay of conver- These two points being so established, that sion. It is clear that we carry in our own no one can justly dispute them, we may prove, breast principles which render conversion dif I am confident, from our own constitution, that ficult, and I may add, impossible, if deferred a conversion deferred ought always to be susto a certain period. To comprehend this, pected; and that, by deferring the work, we form in your mind an adequate idea of conver-risk the forfeiture of the grace.-Follow us in sion, and fully admit, that the soul, in order to possess this state of grace, must acquire two essential dispositions; it must be illuminated; it must be sanctified. It must understand the truths of religion, and conform to its precepts.
First. You cannot become regenerate unless you know the truths of religion. Not that we would preach the gospel to you as a discipline having no object but the exercise of speculation. We neither wish to make the Christian a philosopher, nor to encumber his mind with a thousand questions agitated in the schools. Much less would we elevate salvation above the comprehension of persons of common understanding; who, being incapable of abstruse thought, would be cut off from the divine favour, if this change required profound reflection, and refined investigation. It can not, however, be disputed, that every man should be instructed according to his situation in life, and according to the capacity he has received from heaven. In a word, a Christian ought to be a Christian, not because he has been educated in the principles of Christianity transmitted by his fathers, but because those principles came from God.
To have contrary dispositions, to follow a religion from obstinacy or prejudice, is equally to renounce the dignity of a man, a Christian, and a Protestant :-The dignity of a man, who, endowed with intelligence, should never decide on important subjects without consulting his understanding, given to guide and conduct him--The dignity of a Christian; for the gospel reveals a God who may be known, John iv. 22; it requires us to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good,' 1 Thess. v. 21. The dignity of a Protestant; for it is the foundation and distinguishing article of the Reformation, that submission to human creeds is a bondage unworthy of him whom the Son has made free.' Inquiry, knowledge, and investigation, are the leading points of religion, and the first step, so to speak, by which we are to seek the Lord.'
This is true, first, with regard to the light essential to conversion. Here, my brethren, it were to have been wished, that each of you had studied the human constitution; that you had attentively considered the mode in which the soul and body are united, the close ties which subsist between the intelligence that thinks within, and the body to which it is united. We are not pure spirit; the soul is a lodger in matter, and on the temperature of this matter depends the success of our researches after truth, and consequently after religion.
Now, my brethren, every season and every period of life are not alike proper for disposing the body to the happy temperature, which leaves the soul at liberty or reflection and thought. The powers of the brain fail with years, the senses become dull, the spirits evaporate, the memory weakens, the blood chills in the veins, and a cloud of darkness envelopes all the faculties. Hence the drowsiness of aged people: hence the difficulty of receiving new impressions; hence the return of ancient objects; hence the obstinacy in their sentiments; hence the almost universal defect of knowledge and comprehension; whereas people less advanced in age have usually an easy mind, a retentive memory, a happy conception, and a teachable temper. If we, therefore, defer the acquisition of religious knowledge tll age has chilled the blood, obscured the understanding, enfeebled the memory, and confirmed prejudice and obstinacy, it is almost impossible to be in a situation to acquire that information without which our religion can neither be agreeable to God, afford us solid consolation in affliction, nor motive sufficient against temptation.
If this reflection do not strike you with sufficient force, follow man in the succeeding periods of life. The love of pleasure predominates in his early years, and the dissipations of the world allure him from the study of reliThe second disposition is sanctification. The gion. The sentiments of conscience are heard, truths proposed in Scripture for examination however, notwithstanding the tumult of a thouand belief, are not presented to excite vain sand passions: they suggest that, in order to speculations, or gratify curiosity. They are peace of conscience, he must either be relitruths designed to produce a divine influence gious, or persuade himself that religion is alon the heart and life. He that saith, I know together a phantom. What does a man do in him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a this situation? He becomes either incredu liar. If you know these things, happy are lous or superstitious. He believes without you, if you do them. Pure religion and un-examination and discussion, that he has been defiled before God and the Father, is this, to educated in the bosom of truth; that the relivisit the fatherless and the widows in their af- gion of his fathers is the only one which can fliction,' 1 John ii, 4; John xiii. 17; James i. be good; or rather, he regards religion only 27. When we speak of Christian obedience, on the side of those difficulties which infidels we do not mean some transient acts of devo- oppose, and employs all his strength of inteltion; we mean a submission proceeding from lect to augment those difficulties, and to evade a source of holiness, which, however mixed their evidence. Thus he dismisses religion to with imperfection in its efforts, piety is always escape his conscience, and becomes an obstithe predominant disposition of the heart, and nate Atheist, to be calm in crimes. Thus he virtue triumphant over vice. wastes his youth, time flies, years accumulate,
notions become strong, impressions fixed in the brain, and the brain gradually loses that suppleness of which we now spake.
A period arrives in which these passions seem to subside; and as they were the sole cause of rendering that man superstitious or incredulous, it seems that incredulity and superstition should vanish with the passions. Let us profit by the circumstance; let us endea-flights vour to dissipate the illusion; let us summons the man to go back to the first source of its errors; let us talk; let us prove; let us reason; but all is unavailing care; as it commonly happens that the aged talk of former times, and recollect the facts which struck them in their youth, while present occurrences leave no trace on the memory, so the old ideas continually run in their mind.
| often, when retired to the closet to examine your conscience, have worldly speculations interrupted your duty! How often, when prose trated in the presence of God, has this heart which you came to offer him, robbed you of your devotion by pursuing earthly objects! How often, when engaged in sacrificing to the Lord a sacrifice of repentance, has a thousand of birds come to annoy the sacred service! Evident proof of the truth we advance! Every day we see new objects: these objects leave ideas; these ideas recur; and the contracted soul, unable to attend to the ideas it already possesses, and to those it would acquire, becomes incapable of religious investigation. Happy is the man descended from enlightened parents, and instructed, like Timothy, in the Holy Scriptures from his infancy! Having consecrated his early life to the study of truth, he has only, in a dying and retired age, to collect the consolations of a religion magnificent in its promises, and incontestable in its proofs.
Let us farther remark, that the soul not only loses with time the facility of discerning error from truth, but after having for a considerable time habituated itself to converse solely with sensible objects, it is almost impossible to attach it to any other. See that man who has for a course of years been employed in auditing accounts, in examining the nature of trade, the prudence of his partners, the fidelity of his correspondents; propose to him, for instance, the solution of a problem; desire him to investigate the cause of a phenomenon, the foundation of a system, and you require an impossibility. The mind, however, of this man, who finds these subjects so difficult, and the mind of the philosopher who investigates them with ease, are formed much in the same This truth is susceptible of a much clearer way. All the difference between them is, that demonstration, when we consider religion with the latter has accustomed himself to the con- regard to practice. And as the subject turns templation of mental objects, whereas the on principles to which we usually pay but other has voluntarily debased himself to sor-slight attention, we are especially obliged to did pursuits, degraded his understanding, and request, if you would edify by this discourse, enslaved it to sensible objects. After having that you would hear attentively. There are passed our life in this sort of business, without subjects less connected, which may be compre. allowing time for reflection, religion becomes hended, notwithstanding a momentary absence an abyss; the clearest truth, mysterious; the of the mind; but this requires an unremitting slightest study, fatigue; and, when we would attention, as we lose the whole by neglecting fix our thoughts, they are captivated with in- the smallest part. voluntary deviations,
Hence we conclude, with regard to whatever is speculative in our salvation, that conversion becomes more difficult in proportion as it is deferred. We conclude with regard to the light of faith, that we must seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.' We must study religion while aided by a recollected mind, and an easy conception. We must, while young, elevate the heart above sensible objects, and fill the soul with sacred truths before the world has engrossed its capacity.
Remember, in the first place, what we have In a word, the final inconvenience which already hinted, that in order to true converresults from deferring the study of religion, sion, it is not sufficient to evidence some partial is a distraction and dissipation proceeding from acts of love to God: the principle must be so the objects which prepossess the mind. The profound and permanent, that this love, though various scenes of life, presented to the eye, mixed with some defects, shall ever be the make a strong impression on the soul; and the predominant disposition of the heart. We ideas will obtrude even when we would wish should not apprehend that any of you would to divert the attention. Hence distinguished dispute this assertion, if we should content ouremployments, eminent situations, and profes-selves with pressing it in a vague and general sions which require intense application, are way; and if we had no design to draw conclunot commonly the most compatible with salva- sions directly opposite to the notions of many, tion. Not only because they rob us, while and to the practice of most. But at the close actually employed, of the time we should de- of this discourse, unable to evade the consevote to God, but because they pursue us in quences which follow the principle, we are defiance of our efforts. We come to the Lord's strongly persuaded you will renew the attack house with our bullocks, with our doves, with on the principle itself, and deny that to which our speculations, with our ships, with our bills you have already assented. Hence we ought of exchange, with our titles, with our equi- not to proceed before we are agreed what we page, as those profane Jews whom Jesus Christ ought to believe upon this head. We ask you once chased from the temple in Jerusalem. brethren, whether you believe it requisite to There is no need to be a philosopher to per-love God in order to salvation? We can scarceceive the force of this truth; it requires no ly think that any of our audience will answer evidence but the history of your own life. How in the negative; at least we should fear 10